Great Britain has been at the forefront of the sport since its inception at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta 1996 and has won Team gold at every Paralympic Games since.
The GB team brought home 10 medals from the Beijing Paralympic Games and have consistently maintained their position as the leading nation in the Team event.
As Paralympic sport continues to develop, the competition for the Team event has intensified dramatically and Britain’s rivalry with second-ranked nation Germany has been fuelled by increasingly close competitions. Denmark are also stepping up to the mark with GB firmly in their sights and are another nation to keep a close eye on.
The talent within the GB ranks was on display at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, where the team of seven won 15 medals, including a clean sweep of the Grade Ia medals – with Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham and Emma Sheardown sharing the spoils.
Lee Pearson was also on fine form, winning golds in both the Grade Ib Individual and Freestyle tests, whilst team-mate Sophie Wells took the top spot in both the Grade IV tests.
The Para-Equestrian Dressage European Championships in 2011 saw Britain’s five-strong female squad not only bag Team gold with a record score but also claim a further seven Individual gold medals and three silvers. Natasha Baker, Deborah Criddle, Anne Dunham and Sophie Wells all scooped at least one gold medal each, while silver medallist Emma Sheardown was beaten into the top place by team-mate Dunham in both the Special and Freestyle classes.
At London 2012, the GB team once again proved their dominance in the arena, topping the medal table with a haul of five golds, five silvers and one bronze. The team of Sophie Christiansen, Sophie Wells, Deb Criddle and Lee Pearson successfully defended Great Britain's Team title, with Chrisiansen going on to win a further two golds in her Individual Championship Grade Ia and Individual Freestyle Grade Ia tests. Natasha Baker also brought home two golds from her Individual Championship Grade II and Individual Freestyle Grade II tests, while Criddle and Wells added a further to silvers each and Pearson added a silver and a bronze to GB's tally.
- First year at a Paralympic Games:
- Atlanta 1996
- Brief history:
- The first international dressage competitions for disabled riders were held at the 1984 World Games in New York, with the first World Championships taking place in Sweden in 1987
- Eligible impairment groups:
- All physical impairment groups and athletes who have visual impairments. All Equestrian events at the Paralympic Games are mixed, with athletes grouped according to their functional ability. Riders who have visual impairments are permitted to use 'callers' to help them navigate around the arena.
- London medal table:
- 1- Great Britain (five gold, five silver, one bronze)
2 - Germany (two gold, three silver, two bronze)
3 - Belgium (two gold)
- GB medals in London:
- Sophie Christiansen, gold, Individual Championship Test Grade Ia, gold, Individual Freestyle Test Grade Ia, gold, Team Test
Deb Criddle, gold, Team Test, silver, Individual Championship Test Grade III, silver, Individual Freestyle Test Grade III
Sophie Wells, gold, Team Test, silver, Individual Championship Test Grade IV, silver, Individual Freestyle Test Grade IV
Lee Pearson, gold, Team Test, silver, Individual Championship Test Grade Ib, bronze, Individual Freestyle Test Grade Ib
Natasha Baker, gold, Individual Championship Test Grade II, gold, Individual Freestyle Test Grade II
- Did you know:
- GB has won the Team event at every Paralympic Games since the event was introduced in 1996
- London 2012 venue:
- Greenwich Park
- Rio 2016 venue:
- National Equestrian Centre (Deodoro Zone)
Five riders will compete for Great Britain at the Games; three or four riders make up the Team (four riders will compete for GB), with the final rider(s) riding as an Individual. Men and women compete against each other equally within their specific grades, with riders competing on their own horses as opposed to horses provided by the organisers.
At the Paralympic Games, all athletes compete in three Dressage tests: a Team Test, an Individual Championship Test and a Freestyle Test (where athletes choose their own routine and set it to their own choice of music).
The results of the Team and Individual Championship Tests are added together to arrive at the overall Team score, with the best three scores (from a team of four) counting. Individual medals are also awarded on the merit of both the Individual Championship Test and the Freestyle Test. All riders, whether competing in a Team or not, may ride in the Team Test.
Athletes are classified according to their functional ability when mounted across five grades (Ia, Ib, II, III and IV). The grading determines the complexity of the movements riders perform with their horses during their tests, ensuring that the tests are judged on the skill of the rider, regardless of their impairment. Riders may use permitted assistive devices such as dressage whips, connecting rein bars looped reins, and the like. Riders who have visual impairments are permitted to use ‘callers’ to help them navigate around the arena.
Grade Ia riders are usually wheelchair users with impairment of all four limbs. They may be able to walk, but this is usually with an unsteady gait due to difficulties with balance and trunk stability.
Grade Ib riders are similar to Grade Ia in that they are mainly wheelchair users. They must have poor trunk balance and/or impairment of all four limbs. Some riders will have both, but some will have just one of the two listed impairments.
Grade II riders are often wheelchair users. Riders in this grade can have severe impairment involving the trunk but with good or mild upper limb function, or can have severe arm impairment and slight leg impairment, or can have severe degree of impairment down one side.
Grade III riders are usually able to walk without support but may require a wheelchair for longer distances. Riders can have moderate unilateral impairment, moderate impairment of all four limbs, or severe arm impairment. Blind riders compete in this category but must wear blacked-out glasses or a blindfold. Riders who have learning disability also compete in this category at non-Paralympic level.
Grade IV riders have an impairment of one of two limbs or a visual impairment at B2 level.
Riders with just a hearing impairment or who have a visual impairment at B3 or B4 level are not eligible to compete at a Paralympic Games in Para-Dressage. Riders with recovering or deteriorating conditions such as MS are eligible but must have been reclassified within six months of a World Championships or Paralympic Games to ensure their classification is correct.
Specialised equipment including prostheses is only allowed where it has been specifically approved.